So, there's this character who appears to be nothing out of the ordinary. He seems like an average normal guy, and doesn't seem to be particularly strong. He might even look frail or appear to be out of shape. You decide to fight him because you figure he'd be pretty easy to beat. But then he takes his shirt off, and it's revealed that he's completely ripped with steel six-pack abs. It turns out that harmless-looking guy is a badass, and he can kick some serious ass. Usually played for laughs, but can also be added for oh-crap. Can overlap with Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass, but the character does not have to be a moron, just to appear weak at first glance.
ExamplesAnime and Manga
- Bleach: Genryuusai Shigekuni Yamamoto, the captain of the first squad and leader of the Gotei 13, uses a cane and looks overall like he's just a frail old man. Then we learn about his powers. Now we know that Yamamoto is a badass, but he still doesn't look like much of a physical fighter. This is proven wrong when Yamamoto is rendered unable to use his powers, forcing him to fight with nothing but his bare hands. This is when he reveals his muscular body that is also Covered with Scars and... well, Curb-Stomp Battle ensues.
- In the Silver Age version of Superman, on one occasion when Lois Lane and Clark Kent were at the beach, Lois marveled that she'd had no idea how muscular Clark was.
- In Kung Fu Hustle, Sing tries to find one of the villagers that would be easy enough to fight. He calls on a nerdy old guy with glasses. When he steps forward, he's revealed to have a hulking upper body.
- Spider-Man flips the order of occurrence after Peter gets bitten by the spider. He is very surprised to go to sleep feeling sick and wake up with upper body strength and a six-pack. The jock he clobbers later with his new powers is even more surprised.
- In the childrens' book Black and Blue Magic a summer of having wings & using them nightly fills out young Harry Houdini Marco's chest & ab muscles, which he doesn't notice until someone [his mother? I forget] points it out.
- Belgarath of the Belgariad has the appearance of an old man in tattered rags who avoids work at all costs and spends his spare time in a state of drunken carouse. To boot, he's a sorcerer, so you might expect him to be a Squishy Wizard. But when he takes off his shirt to swim in the Malloreon, he's revealed to have a fine physique. There's justification here, since sorcerers are Voluntary Shapeshifters, and are implied to age according to their self-image: Belgarath looks old because it makes him venerable, but that's no reason for him to be feeble.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender
- King Bumi. Aang challenges him because he looks like a feeble old man, until he takes his shirt off.
- Iroh has this as well after working out in prison. The trope image for Prisons Are Gymnasiums is a great example of this.
- Powerpuff Girls. This happens to the mayor of Townsville in "Impeach Fuzz" when Fuzzy Lumpkins pushes his Berserk Button. It doesn't last, but it's still pretty awesome.
- Despite his meek appearance, Ned Flanders in The Simpsons has a perfectly toned body when he takes his shirt off. In a more recent episode, he is seen effortlessly subduing a much larger bodybuilder.
- Groundskeeper Willie also doesn't look like much, until you see him without a shirt. He once wrestled a wolf and beat it. A wolf!
- In the Futurama episode "Parasites Lost," parasitic worms have strengthened Fry's body, which is revealed when he rips his shirt off to fight Sal, who's bulging with what could be muscles.
- Similar to the Kung Fu Hustle example above, in the My Little Pony Friendship Is Magic episode "Dragon Quest" Spike challenges a seemingly weak dragon to a tail wrestling contest, only for it to be revealed that he has a freakishly gargantuan tail. Although this example doesn't use abs, it's still the same concept.
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